Greening the office
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Date: 4 August, 2010


'A standby saver plug will make sure that all the peripherals, such as printers, modems etc, are switched off when the computer is switched off.'

It sometimes seems that we spend as much (or more) time in the office as we do at home, so it’s just as important to make the effort to be green at work, says Suzanne Elvidge

The easiest way to start is by turning things off – lights when you are leaving a room, computers, monitors, printers and photocopiers overnight (it will help keep things cooler too), and mobile phone chargers when the phone is charged.

A standby saver plug will make sure that all the peripherals, such as printers, modems etc, are switched off when the computer is switched off.

Turning off the servers isn’t so easy, but it may be possible one day.

That was the simple bit – now, what’s next? It will be almost as easy, we promise!

Using links to specific products will raise money for Christian Aid – if you can’t find what you are looking for, try the Surefish Shop.

Paper and printers

The simplest way to reduce paper use in the office (and reduce the amount of printer ink and power used as well) is not to print things off in the first place – can you go paperless?

If things have to be printed off, switch to draft mode to reduce the amount of ink used, use a print management program to reduce extra pages, print double-sided (put up a sign to remind people) and consider installing Ecofont, the font with holes in.

Fill the printer with reusable paper – anything from discarded printouts to the backs of letters – and reuse envelopes.

Where plain paper is needed, use recycled paper (available from Amazon or Nigel’s Eco Store – both links raise money for Christian Aid) and print on both sides.

Once the paper is finished with, recycle it – recycling paper reduces water and power use and cuts air pollution too.

If documents are sensitive, shred them and then recycle the shreddings (but check first – not all paper recyclers will take shredded paper), or reuse for anything from packing material through pet bedding and cat litter to ‘browns’ for the compost heap.

Recycle your ink cartridges and old mobile phones for Christian Aid.

Furniture and hardware

Find a local recycling group such as Freecycle or Freegle to source second-hand office furniture for free – cuts your costs and saves stuff from landfill too. It’s a community-friendly way to pass stuff on too.

When buying new computers, monitors and other hardware, check the energy usage. And what to do with the old electronics?

There is a range of groups that will refurbish and re-home old computer equipment to charities and projects.

Lighting, heating and cooling

Low energy light bulbs are great for greening the office, as they save energy and last longer too, but some people find the light a bit yellow.

Full-spectrum low energy bulbs provide a light that’s closer to daylight, and may help with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as well.

Make sure that the heating is only on when people are in the building, and try turning the thermostats down by one degree (or may be even two… see if anyone notices). This could save 5-10% on the heating bill.

Is the air conditioning really needed? It uses a lot of energy. Provide shade on sunny windows by fitting thermal blinds or growing ‘green curtains’ and use fans to draw air through the office

For people that have the opportunity to design a new office from scratch, light pipes make the most of natural light, and solar chimneys use the heat of the sun to improve cooling and ventilation.

Good levels of insulation will keep rooms warm in the winter (but will also help to keep them cool in the summer, too), and solar control glass allows light through but will keep rooms cooler. Get inspired!

Food and drink

Reusing is always better than recycling. Encourage people to bring mugs and glasses in from home (or treat everyone to a Traidcraft mug and glass) rather than using disposable plastic cups.

Rather than everyone driving out to different places for lunch, create a comfortable and pleasant indoor and/or outdoor area for people to eat, and get a local sandwich company to deliver.

Microwaves are a low energy way to cook, and will encourage people to bring in leftovers for lunch.

Further reading



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